Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tattoos on launch: 2

The second in an occasional series of bird tattoos spotted on launch. More pictures from today's launch here

Phil Lardner

Phil Lardner has taken the World Championships by storm, scurrilously blogging his way to newfound fame in the hang gliding community and – according to his own well-founded reports – beating the Oz Report, the best known English-language hang gliding blog, at its own game. But who is he?

According to his profile he is 41, single, lives in Bray, Co Wicklow, Ireland and likes beekeeping, astronomy and hang gliding. His hang gliding CV shows he has held a number of responsible posts over the years, including being the Irish Hang and Paragliding Association’s training and flight safety officer, their webmaster and their sites officer. The IHPA is a sponsor of Team Ireland at this World Championships and links to Lardner's blog from its website with the instruction, 'Failure is not an option - national pride is at stake.'

Lardner is also the FAI alternate delegate for Ireland. However, not much else is known about the mystery Irishman. Professionally, the Irishman has revealed he is a systems analyst who for the past two years has worked on maintaining his family’s Edwardian estate in Ireland.

Passionate about astronomy he used to build telescopes, before the overcast Irish skies dampened his enthusiasm. He took up hang gliding in 2000.

Lardner in dancing mood

Lardner in mystery clinch

Lardner in Team Leader mode

Lardner in a chicken hat

Lardner in shorts

Tuesday 30 June: Task 5: 130km: Stopped

5pm: Tom Payne watching from Geneva posted a good question:

'How does the scoring work when a task with multiple start gates is stopped with no pilots in goal? If you score it up to the point that it was stopped then pilots who chose a later start gate will have had less time on the course.'

The answer according to the scorers is that the task will be scored on distance only, and to 20 minutes before the task was stopped: so as far as the pilot got at 3.24pm. And yes, that means people who took a later start gate will end up scoring less. The pilots knew it was likely to storm early. They knew the task might be stopped because of storms on course. Savvy ones got up quick and set off on the first start gate. Those playing for tactics by waiting in the air to race through the pack after taking a second start gate will probably have lost out this time.

Comp leader Christian Ciech is in the campsite bar having a bit of a sit-down and an orange juice. He looks pretty knackered to be honest. How was it Christian? 'A little bit windy, around the first turnpoint.' Nothing more. Everyone will just have to wait and see.

4.15pm: Some 20+ pilots have now landed in the goal field after flying straight here once the task was stopped. More coming in. Manfred Ruhmer landed around the number 25 mark, well after Christian Ciech, Attila Bertok and Jonny Durand. What does this mean? Who knows. It could mean he was way back in the field when the task was stopped, or it could mean he went for a bit of a fly after the task was stopped, or he took a later start gate to try and race through the pack ... Results should make interesting reading tonight.

: Task stopped at 3.44pm. Rain was reported - via radio - on course by at least one pilot, Gordon Rigg of GB. Big overdevelopment - storm clouds - pretty much everywhere now. Smells like rain here at the goal field. Non-competing pilots who have landed here in the last half an hour are now quickly packing up. No competition pilots in goal.

Explainer: The task today was stopped because storms started to develop near to where the competition pilots were flying. Storms are dangerous to all pilots. Read here what happens when glider pilots get too close to thunder clouds.

3.30pm: The sky looks like this just south of Laragne camping and landing field. Big clouds all around now.

: Launch pictures in this Flickr set

Bill Moyes, above, of Moyes Gliders is here with his team of Moyes pilots. 'Could do with a bit more flying, but pretty happy with the gliders.'

Took a while but all the pilots are off now. Some biggish-looking cloud development around, but nothing too serious yet. Pilots are out on course now, with the first expected to arrive in goal around 4pm.

Jonny Durand (AUS) launches from the North side of Chabre

Dust devils on launch, pilots are now taking off from both north and south launches, Manfred Ruhmer (AUT) and Jon Durand (AUS) just went off the north side.

12:35pm: First pilots have launched and are getting high, winds are very light and switchy so launching is a little slow, the sky is looking great with lots of cumulus clouds.

A 130km task is called exit circle 20km around B36 then 114 (Villeperdrix), B29,then north to B56(Valdrome), east to B44 and then goal at camping. Launch opens at 12:20, with 4 starts 13:50 14:10 14:30 and 14:50

: Wind is south east on Chabre just now, which is good. Hopefully a decent breeze will set up and pilots will get off easily today. Twitter posts from launch are here

9.50am: In the meantime, the competition has been on French TV, above. Watch it here. Fantastic in-air footage

: Yesterday saw us sitting on a west launch in a north wind – not good. The reason this happened, we are told, is because of a strong inversion at 2,300m that kept the north wind trapped below it and blowing past us. The expected local westerly flow never really happened. Chabre was flyable, but tricky to launch – meet director tells us only one in five gliders got off there as well. Tricky everywhere, is the message.

Today’s forecast has been done for both launch sites, and is also tricky (NW flow is the hardest one to fly here):

Winds at 1500m
Aspres at 2pm: NW 8knots, 15 kmh
Chabre at 2pm: WNW 4 knots, 8kmh
Aspres at 5pm: NNW 27kmh
Chabre at 5pm: WNW 23kmh

3000m winds: N, 3kmh – very light

By 6pm: southerly winds at 6pm, coming from storms to the south east.

Local breezes will dominate. Less likelihood of thunderstorms today

Inversion at 2,300m. This trapped northerly flow beneath the inversions yesterday.

Drier, more stable air than yesterday.

Summary for Laragne
12noon: SW at 10 knots, 1-2/8 cu, base at 2,400
3pm: WNW wind, cb at 2,700m,
5pm: Could be big cloud devpt, possible rain showers

High risk of thunderstorms in mountains to the east and north east. Showers over Pic de Bure.

Conclusion: we are going to the top south launch at Chabre with an early briefing of 11.30am.

Video: Task 3 winner Christian Ciech

Christian Ciech on winning Task 3 and who he think might win the World Championships...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Video: Meet Team Guatemala

Team Guatemala on flying at home, and the comp.

Monday 29 June: Task 4 cancelled

More photos from launch in this Flickr set

Playing the waiting game on Aspres

16.00: The task has been cancelled - the wind was just not coming round to the west as hoped. Pilots won't even be able to fly home.

After some time of unlaunchable air, pilots are taking off again. Conditions are slowly improving. About 12 pilots in the air (Manfred is still up at base, waiting). A couple of unlucky ones have landed. The cumulus development is not looking too threatening at the moment.

Manfred Ruhmer takes one of the only launch slots of the day

Manfred Ruhmer launched first and has skied out. Jonny Durand is working his way up. Another 6 or so are struggling. The wind is still mostly 90degrees off the hill. There's a big cumulus building to the east.

The start gates are now 15.45, 16.00, 16.15 and 16.30. Launch window closes 16.15 with a maximum extension allowable of 1.5h.

Now pilots are taking off. Some think this is a risky move, but maybe it will pay off.

Launch is closed again. They are rethinking the timings. It's still blowing from the north on the westerly launch, but it looks like the thermals are beginning to bring a breeze up the front south facing launch. A difficult day already.

The task has been announced. A 114km tour from Aspres (D05), travelling first north west to Luc-en-Diois (B810) then due south to B41 col de Perty, just off the end of the Chabre ridge, then east over the Buech valley to the hilltop village of Ventavon (B30), south again to Bevons La Fontaine, east of Sisteron, overlooking the Jabron valley, and then to the official landing field at Ribiers (A11). The launch is now open, with starts at 15.15 and 15.35.

The pilots are on the summit of Aspres, the wind is northerly, so the waiting game has started. The organisers are convinced it will turn to the west, but not sure exactly when. Same thing happened last year in the pre-worlds, it was a good call. The wind finally turned and a good task was set, albeit late.

Jeff O'Brien has had his appeal and he has been reinstated. He scores to the point of his infringement. It was his lucky day.

The forecast is confused today by models, overridden by the forecaster – basically the computer is modelling thunderstorms and overriding the general pattern. (As an aside, the way the forecast is done is the France Meteo forecaster creates a specialised forecast for the comp, which is then emailed over as a powerpoint demo, and he gives an analysis of it over the phone through David Owen, the comp organiser. This means the comp gets the benefit of forecasting local knowledge and ‘feeling’ as well as the modelled forecasts.) So the general pattern is north west flow, with north west winds on take off, and the risk of isolated thunderstorms in the afternoon that will create local winds.

The sounding we took today indicates a cloudbase of 2100m to 2200m early on today, rising to 2,400m at 2pm.

Fine until noon, some cirrus from west, big clouds over east mountains. Showers in first part of the afternoon, storms later. Laragne should stay clear until 4pm.

0C at 4,100m.

Tomorrow: Hot and sunny, with less storm development. NW flow.

Conclusion: Undecided.
Decision is between lower north take off at Chabre, or Aspres west. And the winner is... the west launch of Aspres.

The day looks good out there from the ground. More north in the wind yesterday, but so far the weather looks fine for hang gliding today. Weather report online as usual around 9.45am.

: So, 44 at goal yesterday. Christian Ciech won the day by a point ahead of Christian Voiblet. Zac Majors (USA) came in third. That means Christian Ciech is now leading the competition. Congratulations Christian on a great flight yesterday.

A huge upset though for Task 1 winner Jeff O'Brien (USA). He scored zero (0 points) after being penalised for flying in a no-fly zone. The area, which was close to the course line, is a parachute dropzone. Several pilots clipped it, and landed, as the rules dictate. But O'Brien's tracklog shows he spent some time inside it - as a result he scored nothing for the day. A huge disappointment for the American. He has appealed the decision, citing rain, the whole valley lifting (making it hard to land - he was spiralling but going up), and a parachute plane as the reason that he thought it best to stay in the air and get out of there rather than land in the dropzone. We'll have to wait and see... but fingers crossed he gets a fair hearing. He blogs here.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Video: How not to land a hang glider part 2

A second video of the looping glider pilot who threw his reserve yesterday.

First video here

Sunday 28 June: Task 3: 166km

Some more launch photos are in this Flickr set

8.15pm: Zac Majors (USA), above, in download. He crossed the line third. How was it Zac? 'Awesome out there.' Team mate and Task 1 winner Jeff O'Brien wasn't so lucky today - he didn't make goal. How was it? 'Rough.'

7.45pm: Ciech, above, in to download. He completed the course in 3hr 9min 55 seconds.

Bruce Kavanagh (GB) in to download: 'Incredible day. The second turnpoint was just out of this world.' Everyone liked Pic du Bure today.

Christian Ciech being interviewed in the landing field after his spectacular landing

Manfred Ruhmer in HQ tonight

7.15pm: Switzerland's Christian Voiblet just in downloading his instruments. 'Great task' he says. 'Strong climbs, always safe - the Laragne we like.' Favourite part of the flight? 'The other side of Pic du Bure - the cloud was on the mountain ... we could dolphin fly along the mountain beneath the cloud ... out to the turnpoint and back.'

Christian Ciech (ITA) was first across the line at about 5.30pm. Amazing final glide: landing field spectators thought he was surely in the fields, but his final glide, a metre above the ground, seemed to go on for 300 m or so.

Christian Voiblet (SUI) was second across the line, Zac Majors (USA) third, Manfred Ruhmer (AUT) fourth.

Ruhmer is in download HQ just now. How was it Manfred? 'Beautiful!' He liked the high mountains the best, he say - Pic du Bure and the surrounds.

Three French pilots were in early too: Mario Alonzi, Gianpietro Zin and Antoine Boisselier. Good day for the French.

Estimated 35 in goal so far.

Sorry for lack of updates during the day - Sunday: the blogger went flying.

View Task 3 in a larger map

The task is big enough, pictured above, but not as big as it could have been. Once on launch, it was clear that cloudbase was not high enough early enough to go for the 200km+. Instead we have a none-too-shabby 166km task, launching from Chabre south, flying west to col de la Trappe (B51) near Sederon, then way north to Oubiou (B94), tracking south east to Mont Colombis (B80), returning to Laragne Camping (A10). Launch opens right now. First start gate 14.00. More news as we get it.

Word is the task will be big

Everyone has headed up the hill. Jamie will be tweeting reports from the hill here. Updates will be posted on this page as the task is set etc.

: Forecast summary: Sunny and nice. Good for hang gliding.

Winds at 1500m at 2pm: SW at 10kmh
5pm: increasing slightly and going westerly
3000m at 2pm: 10kmh WNW
3000m at 5pm: Bit more west, at 10kmh

Sounding reports up to 3,000m is very convective: good thermal climbs. Above the inversion is dry.

Sunny, 0-2/8 cumulus. Few patches of thin cirrus. Low risk of isolated showers over north and east high mnts. Valley breezes dominate with poss NW wind strengthening by end of afternoon.

Max temp today 32C. Cloudbase at 2,600 – 2,800m at take off. Rising to 3,000 – 3200m.

Overview for tomorrow: Sunny, moderate NW winds.

Thank you for you attention – have a good flight! Meteo France.

Conclusion: We are heading up to Chabre, and will take off from the top south take off.

Everyone is leaving the hall very fast … looks like it could be a good day.

9.15am: Yesterday was blown out for comp hang gliding, but there was a display of aerobatics by several pilots above the landing field at Laragne. Part of a local 'Fete de l'air' taking place here this weekend. One pilot got it wrong and threw his reserve - video above. He landed ok and was fine. It's the seventh time he's come down under reserve apparently.

9am: Looks like a nice day outside. Light north west at the moment.

Last night was the pizza and paella night for the pilots. We all went to Ribiers, a village nearby and ate pizza and paella at tables set up for us outside in the town square. Of note was Davis Straub of Oz Report fame, who took a direct line, off course, and swooped into the paella pan ahead of the main pack of 100+ pilots, getting back to his seat and goal well before most people had crossed the start gate. Team USA was circling just outside the start cyclinder and managed a quick getaway on the pizza, while Team GB was noticable by their abscence until they made a fast dash-and-grab for the paella. No shows included Team Japan and Austria. One part of Team Australia turned up three hours late demanding food, clearly still on Pacific time. No chance, mate. All up another good night.

Video: Manfred Ruhmer on winning Task 2

Manfred Ruhmer talks about his win on Task 2 and why he's come back to competition hang gliding

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Video: Meet Team Japan

Video: Here's........ Jonny

Australian team pilot Jonny Durand makes videos every day:

Saturday 27 June: Too windy: no fly

1pm: Sorry for lack of morning updates. Too windy today - so we didn't even go up the hill and the day was cancelled at 10.30am.

Extended forecast care of Meteo France, which is producing dedicated forecasts every day for this competition, is sunny, with a risk of storms over mountains to the east

5,500m at 2pm: NW 18 knots – 35 kmh
1,500 m at 2pm: 10-15 knots, 30 kmh. However, the forecaster suggests winds will be stronger.
Surface at 2pm: Moderate NW

Wind strengthening through the afternoon.

Moist air at high level, with cirrus developing. Temp: 0C at 3,700m. 29C max at Laragne

Summary: Sunny, 3 – 4/8 cu over Laragne. Thunderstorm risk over the mountains, maybe around Laragne too by the afternoon. Base at 2,500m to 3,000m. Increasing wind throughout the day. In short, a windy day, maybe too windy.

Tomorrow’s forecast: Sunny, light winds with good conditions for hang gliding. ‘Quite a nice forecast’ according to organisation.

Conclusion: We are going to watch the wind on Chabre, where it is too windy to fly just now according to the weather station on top. Rebrief at 10.30am.
If we do fly, it will be from the lower north take off on Chabre.

Summary forecast is for big cloud development over the mountains, with wind at launch on the limit for take off.

9am: The sky at Laragne camping at 8.15am.

Friday Night Thriller: Fête de la Saint-Jean

A bonfire night opposite the campsite brought pilots and locals out en masse to enjoy Laragne hospitality and beer. The party was a local event – the Fête de la Saint-Jean is an annual bonfire night.

Highlights included Team Japan showing in a kimono. He then danced with Team Russia and Team France in a spectacular show of international unity. When he and Team Russia leapt through the pallet fire, we knew a new threshold in international democracy had been breached – sport can do that.

Meanwhile, Team USA pledged to fly with only one glove for the rest of the comp – or was it only one task? – in honour of countryman Michael Jackson, 50, who sadly passed yesterday.

Team Russia breached French barriers to commandeer a fire hose, which she sprayed liberally on the crowd, causing mayhem and excitement in equal part.

And the mayor of Laragne, a local and national political name, made headlines by dancing with all the pretty girls, both local and international. Worlds staffer Dutch blonde Cornelia remarked that she had to be careful, as she knew she could cause heart attacks among a certain male age group. Wow. To have the power.

A highlight came as the DJ played homage to Jackson with a full, 12-minute version of Thriller. US Team pilot Zac Majors impressed with his impression of a Thriller Zombie, as he did with his moves all night.

All up a good night. Thanks to Laragne for hosting it – and hopefully that beer drinking and hangover will be the sacrifice the weather gods need for today.

More photos from the night, including incriminating ones, here

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pilot photos

All the pilot photos are in this Flickr set

To download the original high resolution image, in the Flickr set:
- Click on the photo you want
- Click the icon ‘All Sizes’ at the top of the photo
- On ‘Available Sizes’ click ‘Original’
- This will give you a photo that you can download and print off at 30cm x 20cm

4.30pm: It's raining at the moment. Most pilots are either here:
The hardest working pizza guy in France

or here:
Casino supermarket: The pilots' favourite ... open Saturdays, and Sunday mornings. Please remember to take your own bag.

Friday 26 June: cancelled

1.40pm: The task was abandoned but most pilots who had rigged chose to launch and fly down. Some had a lot of fun buzzing the launch. It's raining now over Laragne. Tomorrow is another day...

The task committee worked hard and fast to plan a route that would avoid the storms, but to no avail. The skies above Chabre clouded fast, and the cumulus are towering on nearby ranges. The day is abandoned.

The field has gone up the hill. Looks like they will set an earlyish (and short?) task to try to avoid the forecast thunderstorms. Check back 12noon French time for an update on the route they will take. Updates from the hill on Twitter from Jamie

: Forecast summary: ‘More clouds than we have had. High risk of thunderstorms, and NW wind – but not too bad.’

5,000m: Light W to NW winds at 14 knots
1500m: WNW at 14 knots 28km.
Surface: Light W to NW winds

Winds increasing during the day. Moving more NW. By 5pm 30 kmh NW winds in Laragne region. At 3,000m the winds forecast to increase to 30 kmh and W. So, strengthening NW wind during the day.

Forecast sounding for 2pm: high altitude humidity indicating patches of cirrus. 3,000m cumulus. Lots of moisture in the air – storms likely. Temp: 29C high forecast.

Significant weather: rain showers, cunims and thunderstorms by the afternoon in N and W of Laragne. Hopefully these shouldn’t get to us. Must be ready for forecast changes by midday – the day could be tricky weatherwise, basically.

Cloud cover: 4 – 6/8 cloud cover, with cunims above the mountains.

Tomorrow: Cooler, light NW, some cumin to the E.

Conclusion: We are going up Chabre, to the lower north take off. Weather briefing at the top again at noon. Aiming for early take off to beat the thunderstorms.

Team Colombia reach the Mediterranean

: Team Colombia is blogging here in Spanish, with pics.

Chabre, the main take off hill, at 8am this morning

8.45am: Sixty pilots made goal yesterday. Manfred Ruhmer first, Christian Ciech, then Attila Bertok. Manfred got to goal so far ahead of the pack that the points are spread wide - Manfred gets 999, and third place Attila gets 764. That performance puts Manfred in the lead overall.

The forecast yesterday was right, in that we had storms in the mountains later in the night, although no rain fell on Laragne. Today has some storms forecast for later too - the main forecast with come through in about an hour.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday 25 June: Task 2: 125 km

Manfred's winning smile

He was this high when he got to the line

6.30pm: There must be 30 here now. I heard someone ask for a vegemite roll, so some of the Australians have got in too. Results online at www.chabre2009.com later tonight. Check back tomorrow for some more of the same, as long as weather plays ball.

6.15pm: For the Brits watching, Carl Wallbank, Gordon Rigg and Bruce Kavanagh are here. For Japan, Norihisa Wada is here too.

6pm: We now have 10 pilots across the line. It's been so quiet I've had loads of time to research Manfred. Here's a summary:

Why is it important that Ruhmer has crossed the line first? Well, he has been World Champion before – in fact he’s won the title several times: in 1999, 2001 and 2003. As well as World Champ, he has been European Champion four times too.

Born in 1965 he started to fly age 15 and began competing in 1989. He came 44th in the World Champs in Fiesch that year before starting his rise and rise on the international comp circuit. He spent 15 years at it before retiring from the competitive hang gliding scene in 2004 at the top of his game, after dominating the sport for the best part of a decade.

He left to concentrate on flying his Swift and to spend more time with his young family. He went on to dominate the Swift comp scene as he had the hang gliding scene, and also wowed crowds with his looping and acrobatics at free-flight festivals like St Hilaire, France.

He then surprised the hang gliding world by coming back to competition earlier this year. He won the first comp he entered, in Italy, and was widely tipped to walk his way through this comp, scooping the title for himself and helping his team on the way to Gold too. So it was a shock yesterday when he didn’t even place in the Top 10.

Born in 1965 Manfred grew up with one sister and two brothers on a farm in the rolling hills of upper Austria, close to the Czech border.

He is known to dislike the attention that his performance brings. But he has told Dennis Pagen, in that author’s ‘Secrets of Champions’ series published in Cross Country magazine that he is a ‘very patient’ pilot who is ‘willing to spend an hour or more if necessary getting high before the start cylinder’.

He also adds much of his flying is done by feel: ‘Much of my thought process when making these decisions and especially when leaving a thermal and choosing a good path is not done consciously.

‘I think my flying is 60 to 70% intuitive. Even when thermalling I’m sort of on automatic pilot; my body does the right things to stay in the best lift while my attention can be devoted to watching for traffic and looking for signs of better lift or the best routes.’

He is extremely well regarded in the sport. A pilot’s pilot, and a deserving winner. Congratulations Manfred.

5.45pm: Two more across. Attila Bertok (current World Champ) then number 33, Dan Vyhnalik.

5.30pm: Tum te tum ... twiddling thumbs here in the campsite. It's quiet here, not like yesterday's fiesta atmosphere. No one else has crossed the line yet. It feels like we've been waiting hours.

5.15pm: Pilot 16, Manfred Ruhmer is first across the line. By a mile. Christian Ciech was second across the line.

4pm: A nice photo from launch today on Aspres, above. Beautiful site. A few more take off pictures in this Flickr set.

3.30pm: The sky outside the Laragne HQ looks like this, above. You can't see them, but there are pilots up there.

Launch pic from Jamie Wanders who is tweeting on launch

2.30pm: Update from the hill, via one of the organisation officials. Almost everyone has launched and is in the air. The gaggles are not going up fast, although they are getting height eventually. Hard work basically. The day looks good, with good clouds, but it's been a slow start. The first start gate has just opened. Going by yesterday's speeds, expect first goal arrivals around 6pm French time.

2pm: Jamie tweets: 'A bit crowded over launch, so they're holding for 2 minutes every 10 minutes or so. All the Brits in the air.'

1.15pm: Jamie tweets: 'Launch open in 15 minutes. More clouds than yesterday, chance of storms later in the afternoon. Wind dummies reporting nice strong climbs.'

125 km task announced. Out and return from Aspres heading in a straight line first south, then back to landing at Laragne campsite. Take off opens at 1.15pm, closes at 3.15pm. Start gates at 2.30pm, 2.45pm, 3pm. Land by time of 7.30pm.

Task is from Aspres to turnpoint B25, then to Estoublon, which is turnpoint B92, then back to camping at Laragne. Straightline racing!

I'll try this Google Maps feature ... the route should be marked (updated, 1.45pm). Now, if only the pilots had tracking systems, we could follow this live...

View Task 2 in a larger map

Racing lesson number 1: Non-pilots might wonder about the difference between a take off time and a start gate. The take off time is when pilots are allowed to take off. Generally they will take off early and get established in the air - taking their time to relax, make harness adjustments, get in the groove and most importantly, get high and into position (they have a start 'line' to cross in the air, shown on their GPS). They are then ready to start racing, which they can do any time after 2.30pm today, when the first start gate opens. But tactics now come into play. To get the fastest time pilots need to cross the start 'line' the second their GPS-clock ticks over. Some pilots will also wait around until the second or third start gate because they want to use the early-birds as markers, so they can swoop through the course line and overtake pilots in front. Or they may simply wait for the next start gate because they think conditions will get better as the day goes on. Either way, the eventual time a pilot gets is from his start gate (2.30pm, 2.45pm or 3pm today) to the second he crosses the goal line. Hope that makes sense. If not, feel free to post a comment/question.

Flip Koetsier just stood up and revealed there has been a ‘minor inaccuracy’ in the scoring. A new list will be published in the afternoon. He said pilots who missed the line yesterday should not get too excited - they probably will still have missed the line.

: The forecast briefing has just finished. Another good day forecast. Isolated thunderstorm risk later in the afternoon. Light westerly airflow: 10-15 knots at 5,500 m.

Temperature colder than yesterday because airmass is less stable. Lower pressure than yesterday. Light low level winds. Cus and cu-nims in afternoon.

1500 m: 2pm: west at 10 knots, 20 kmh.
1500 m at 5pm: 15 knots from the west. Late afternoon westerly winds will be stronger today than yesterday.
3,000m: similar to 1,500m.

Before noon might have 20 knots at 3,000m, but should weaken to 10-15 knots in the afternoon with a slight north in it. Strengthening lower level north north west wind today – will be important today. Weak inversion at 3,000 m. Wind consistent in direction at all levels today.

Hot and sunny, some cumulus over mountains, west north west wind increasing after noon, earlier westerly wind on take off than normal, some showers on mountains after 3pm/4pm.

So, the main story seems to be the westerly wind, which may kick in earlier than usual on Chabre take off, and will strengthen throughout the day. Cumulus cover will be greater than yesterday, with some chance of thunderstorms later in the day.

Overview for tomorrow: light winds, north west upper winds, possible cu-nim development in the afternoon.

Given the westerly winds, we are going to go to Aspres. This is further away from Laragne than Chabre - about an hour. The good thing is the parking is easier and the take off area is enormous.

9am: So everyone is tired this morning, but the campsite looks like this. Yes, that's right, it's the same photo as yesterday. So we may have more of the same today, although the wind seems to have a bit more west in it. The results were posted late last night and are online at www.chabre2009.com. Those poor scorers exist only on stress, beer and pizza - the last pilot only got back from retrieve just before midnight. There were two tree landings - both ok - and one hard landing where the pilot got checked out and is also 100% fine.

Jeff O Brien won the day - well done Jeff. Upsets included Blay Olmos (Spain) landing metres short, and Australian Curt Warren and Brit Carl Wallbank doing the same - by one lousy metre. Filippo Oppici (ITA) and Koji Daimon (JPN) also landed pretty much in the field but didn’t cross the line. Commiserations to all – after such great flying it must feel like murder to drop short. 51 made goal.

Meanwhile, Manfred Ruhmer crossed the line earlier than posted yesterday - he came in alongside team mate Gerolf Heinrichs to take spots 14 and 16.

Same deal as yesterday on the blog - we will post as the news comes in.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wednesday 24 June: Task 1: 162Km

Jeff was interviewed for this blog when he was at the pre-Worlds last year. See it here

Jeff's blog, pictures and video of the day are all here

Jeff lands on Flickr

Jeff makes Google News:

This is his video of the day:

Jeff O'Brien crosses the line first

See all today's launch photos in this Flickr set

Added Thursday noon: If you haven't read Jamie Wanders report from goal yesterday read it here. She just gets it:

When I realized it was OB, all I could think was how ecstatic and proud Rob would be if he could have been here to see that. I was with him at goal in Texas two years ago when Kevin Carter came in first the first day of the worlds. Turns out Kevin had taken the earliest start, so he didn't win the day, but Rob was beside himself. He was always such a proud Wills Wing father"

There is quite a breeze blowing through the campsite, and it's caught quite a few pilots out - several, including some names, have landed painfully close but not made it across the line as they struggle into wind for the last km or so. A few faces-of-agony are walking around the landing field just now, including Blay Olmos (Spain) and Brit team captain Carl Wallbank. They may have made it on the GPS. The results will make interesting reading. Jamie Wanders is tweeting the goal line on her site here. Her latest post says '30 across the goal line: No sign of Manfred yet'. It's all down to the scorers now...

Jeff O Brien (USA) crossed the line first about 10 minutes ago. He took the second start gate at 2.30pm. Looks like he has probably won the day. He crossed on his own, several minutes in front of the second and third pilots across: Alessandro Ploner and Christian Voiblet. Fantastic flying Jeff!

So far only a dozen pilots have reported back to HQ that they have landed enroute - looks like there could be lots in goal.

So the pilots are on task now. Down at the goal field (the Laragne campsite) there is already a party atmosphere - the music is on and the beers are out. One of the wind dummies who just landed after a two hour flight reported climbs of 5m/s and climbing out to 3,000m above launch. Expect more - and bigger - numbers as the day goes on. We'll head down to the goal field and try to catch the first ones coming across. Three start gates today though: 2.15pm, 2.30pm and 2.45pm, so whoever is first across the line won't necessarily be the winner of the day. We'll have to wait until much later - maybe 11pm tonight - to find that out.

A quick word about launch: the first half got off well and quickly, then the wind started to switch about a little, hindering some of the later pilots, so there were some late launches. Other than that most pilots took off and went straight up.

In just half an hour since the launch opened, about half of the field have taken off and skied out. No-one is hanging about today!

12.45pm: They are ready for the off. The task is set - a not-so-trivial 162km circuit. The first start gate opens at 14.15 and they will be heading North to Bonnet Rouge (B47), then East to Batie Neuve (B84), South over the edge of lake Serre-Poncon to St Pons/Seyne (103), then South West to B77, just north of Digne, and finally the long return to Camping Montéglin at Laragne. Estimated arrival is around 18.30. More news as we get it.

10am: Heading up the hill. Check back around lunchtime (FRA) for an update. Hope to have task etc online then.

9.40am: Briefing has just finished. Forecast supplied by Meteo France reads: ‘At last a good day. No problem with the wind but fairly stable. Blue thermals in the Laragne area.’

Main points:

Weak north westerly airflow.

Winds at 1500 m for 2pm: SW at 5 knots – 10 kmh.

At 3,000 m at 2 pm: NE at 10 knots – 20 kmh.

At 3,000 m at 5 pm: NE at 5 knots – 10 kmh

Wind will switch to NE at around 2,000 m. Below that it will be SW.

Forecast sounding for later in the day (5pm) is for no inversions up to 3,000 m. Weak inversion at 3,000 m.

So, hot, sunny and blue – very few cumulus. No risk of thunderstorms. Stable air.

Tomorrow's forecast: hot and sunny, light winds, possible storms over the high mountains in afternoon. Light winds and valley breezes, light NW upper winds.

Summary by David Owen: ‘Pretty much a classic Laragne day.’

Conclusion: 'We are going up Chabre. To set up on the upper south launch.'

9.15am: Lots of milling about going on at HQ. There is a whisper of maybe going up Aspres, maybe Chabre ... News on the noticeboard is the protest from the Hungarian Team has been denied.

7.35am: The view from the campsite this morning.

7.30am: Brian the Scorer is working on getting the temperature trace up and running again this morning. Small problem with the software/hardware (which looks about 25 years old) feeling cranky, but it should be sorted out soon enough. Scene on the campsite is quite slow - just a few people getting up so far. Give it an hour and we will all be in the HQ rattling around trying to predict the weather.